Monday, August 20, 2007

Substantial Grub in Cedar City

This last week, I went with my oldest son to the Shakespeare festival in Cedar City, an annual tradition (since this is our second year--if we do it twice, it's a tradition). Traveling with a 17-year-old means you need to find some substantial grub, and this means meat.

Last year, we hit a restaurent close to the hotel, the Cedar Creek Restaurant. Nothing too fancy here: it is as promised "homestyle comfort food." They offer a nice selection of hamburgers, sandwiches, grilled chicken, steaks, soups, salads, and desserts. The grilled items are the speciality, but they also offer some interesting pasta dishes. As I recall, they had pretty good homemade rolls, too.

Then we went up the canyon to Rusty's Ranch House. It's dinner only at Rusty's, and they're closed on Sunday (that's the Mormon influence). They offer substantial portions of steaks, chicken, and ribs with salad, rolls, and sweet potatoes on the side. They offer a pretty good cobbler among the desserts. We went there as a family several years ago when we were staying in a cabin at Duck Creek Village with AnneMarie's family. Her dad's nickname is "Rusty," so we had to stop there. This was the summer before AnneMarie's mother died, and the last time (really) that her entire family was all together before her mother's death. So it has some particular memories as well as good substantial food.

This year, we stopped off at the Branding Iron Texas Bar-B-Que. It's excellent stuff at good prices. Since this is Texas style, the emphasis is on the beef. They offer brisket, tri-tip, and beef ribs, but they also have pretty good sausage, chicken, and pork. We had a really good peach cobbler for dessert. I really liked the spicy beans on the side--and they were spicy. This is just off the freeway (Exit #59) on the south end of town at the Providence Crossing Center (just look for the lighthouse). Some of the best barbecue I've had in Utah.

We had intended to try an interesting place called the Market Grill. This establishment is on highway 56 out by the airport (and the dump). The Market Grill is attached to the Cedar Livestock Market (where you can watch live auctions every Thursday). Originally, it was intended to feed the ranchers who came in for the auctions. Now it is a favorite among locals. And talk about getting food close to the source.

But there was a change of plans. We met up, by chance, with my brother and his family, and ended up at Sizzler, which is a much better place for kids because they have a salad/dessert bar. I usually find Sizzler disappointing. The food seems not as good as it should be for what you pay. So I just got the salad bar. My son ordered a ribeye steak, which is usually a good choice--one of my favorites. This was an OK steak (cooked medium rare), but it could only loosely be called a ribeye. It probably came from the same neighborhood on the cow, but it wasn't the real deal. This makes mean sound like a food snob, but I'm just pointing out how when at Sizzler, you usually have to lower your expectations.

Next year, Market Grill and Milt's Stage Stop.

Ella Good Shave Ice

I finally made it over to Ella Good Shave Ice on 700 East in Provo, just south of campus (down the street from J-Dawgs). This is the real deal. They even mention Matsumoto Shave Ice on their menu.

It wasn't a very busy day over at Ella's and I had to tap on the glass to get some service. But it was nice to sit by the little shack under the misters.

I ordered a medium melona flavored shave ice "Hawaiian style." This begins with a spoonful of sweet azuki beans in the bottom of the cup, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and the "light as a cloud" shaved ice. I was suprised to find between the shaved ice and the ice cream a little gummi bear. Nice attention to detail.

There are cheaper shave ice stands around where the shaved ice itself is just as good, but nothing around here approaches Ella Good for authentic Hawaiian style. I could imagine that I was a few thousand miles away.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Exotic Candy Bars

When I'm on the road, I like to pick up (i.e. purchase and eat) candy bars that aren't normally in the stores in this area. Usually, these are exotic East coast candy bars like Mallo Cups, Charleston Chews (which you actually can get around here), SkyBars, Zagnuts, or Five Star bars. But today it's exotic candy bars from Idaho.

On the way to Cedar City, I stopped off at the Chevron just off the first Fillmore exit (Exit 167)going South. In addition to their "world famous chicken," I picked up an Owyhee Idaho Spud, "the candy bar that makes Idaho famous" and a Farr's Cherry Cordial. The Idaho Spud is a product of the Idaho Candy Co. (The word "Owyhee" describes a river, mountain range, and county in Idaho. It comes from three native Hawaiians--Owyhee is an older spelling of Hawaii--who were part of the Hudson Bay Co. of explorers.) The ICC makes several products, including the Old Faithful Bar and the Cherry Cocktail bar, but they are most famous for the Idaho Spud, which is a cocoa flavored marshmellow center covered in dark chocolate and coconut, and formed into the shape (roughly) of a potato. The Spud is so popular that it has its own fan club with several recipes for cooking with the Idaho Spud, including Idaho Spud fondue.

Farr's Cherry Cordial is less famous and comes from the Farr Candy Co. of Idaho Falls (since 1911). The Cherry Cordial is hand dipped chocolote with a whole cherry in a fondant center, rolled in roasted peanuts. To me, it tasted a little like a "no bake" cookie with a cherry inside. Farr's also makes the Mallo-Nut, Peanut Cluster, and Black Walnut.

Next time you're in Idaho (or parts of rural Utah), support your independent candy makers. (For an interesting history of independent candy makers, read Steve Almond's CandyFreak (2005).

Sandwiches: Shirley's Homemades vs. Kneaders

I've written before about the excellent sweet rolls available from Shirley's Homemades, but I though I would stop by the other day and try out the sandwiches. They are made to order with fresh ingredients (they even cut up a jalepeno to put on my egg salad sandwich). But although the bread was really tasty, I found it a little flimsy to hold all the toppings. I guess one solution would be to have less in the way of toppings, but who wants that?

Kneaders' bread ("It's all about the bread") is a little heavier and stands up better to toppings, but I would still recommend Shirley's.